You have your list, but you are talking to the wrong companies.
The first lesson marketers harp on about account-based marketing (ABM) is the need to build the ‘right’ list. Yet, this is why most ABM campaigns are destined to fail before they’ve even started. This is mainly down to the way people build their lists. The theory tells you, as the CMO, to bring together your marketing and sales teams and identify those accounts that need to be targeted, be that because they meet a set of predefined criteria or attributes (revenue, market segment, size, etc.) or because they are the proverbial ‘good fit’ with your brand. The problem is that none of the above actually indicates that they are interested in your solutions. In reality, you need to be much more specific in your list build. You need to research and identify a niche of accounts that are suffering a particular challenge that your solutions address.
Example: A company selling hybrid cloud solutions could target all organisations of about $1bn revenue, in the manufacturing and banking sector in the UK — there are about 159. Seems sensible, but how many of those companies already have a modern infrastructure in place? How many currently consume enough cloud services to warrant a move to hybrid?
Instead: The company could identify businesses in the above-mentioned sectors that also have ageing legacy servers and/or are currently consuming a large amount of cloud services. A list a little harder to develop, and much smaller but with a much greater propensity to buy a hybrid cloud solution.
Identify a niche of accounts who are truly are in need of your product or service. Start small, test and scale.
You are telling the wrong story.
Everyone likes to talk about themselves. It is comfortable and easy. Here is a universally known truth that is still ignored by 99% of marketers: no one wants to hear about you and your solutions, however relevant or interesting you might be. To be successful at ABM, or any marketing for that matter, you need to frame your story around your audience’s preconceived ideas and existing conversations, and make your solution part of that story. Your story needs be contextual, relevant and, most important of all, believable.
Example: said company selling Hybrid Cloud solutions could wax lyrical about the fact that the solution pays for itself, is easy to implement and will show a return on investment as soon as the migration has happened. All great arguments by the way.
Instead: The company could tap into the ongoing conversation that most enterprise leadership are struggling with: digital transformation — how it helps achieve efficiencies and secure flexible working, as well as improve collaboration. Once it has a voice in this conversation, the company can slowly weave in the importance of hybrid cloud as a secure, yet flexible on/off premise balancing act. If the story is told authentically, the audience will come to the conclusion that it is in fact an integral part of transforming their business.
Identify and tap into the conversations that your target audience is having with an authentic, contextual and relevant story.
You have a great story, but are telling it in the wrong places.
Most marketing campaigns, including ABM campaigns, rely (too) heavily on email. The intrinsic value of email as a marketing channel is irrelevant for the purpose of this article. The fact is that a well-oiled, automated email marketing campaign can be an essential part of a successful ABM campaign. But the essence of ABM is to surround the decision makers at each account with the story they want (they need) to hear. This means you need a deep understanding of your target audience and where they hang out to have these conversations. Depending on their profiles, this might mean the story needs to be told at 1-on-1 events, on social media, by direct mail or by the sales people themselves. Most likely it will be a combination of all the above.
Example: The hybrid cloud company has all the email addresses of their target audience at the selected account. The easy option would be to set up a flawless email marketing campaign targeting their accounts with the perfect story and adding some targeted paid media air cover.
Instead: The company need to research their audience and find out how the key stakeholders are influenced. In the case of Digital Transformation, the conversation is typically held at C-suite so email might not be the best (and should certainly not be the only) mechanism. Considering C-suite are inundated by email and typically only inspired by peers, the company would be better off to identify speaking opportunities at events, organise round tables, partner with 3rd parties who already engage with the audience. Also, retargeting advertising should be combined into the mix to recapture those who have engaged with the company in a specific way. Last but not least, the company might consider sending out high-impact, personalised direct mailings to those contacts who have repeatedly shown an interest in their solution.
Despite the fact that it has been around for a while, Account-based Marketing is a bit of a hot topic at the moment, and rightfully so. According to ITSMA, “ABM delivers the highest return on investment in B2B marketing.” But just because it is popular doesn’t make it easy or inherently successful. To get it right takes research, great storytelling and a holistic approach to marketing.
You might also be interested in the 7 Essentials to Account-Based Marketing (click here or on the image below).